"Yeah, I believe. It's just that when I think about calling myself a "Christian" it makes my stomach turn. It just has bad connotations for me. I guess I could become a Christian, but if I did, I would have to call myself something else. I could call myself a Lutheran, maybe, but not a Christian. I don't like what that word has come to mean."
These are the words I heard this week.
And it broke my heart.
I couldn't argue with this person. Her reasons for not wanting to allow Christ into her life were because she thought she would have to label herself a "Christian" and that was not something she wanted to do. To her "Christian" meant:
And she didn't want those labels on her.
Now, I know this is going to upset my Lutheran brothers and sisters, but think about this a minute...
The person quoted above would rather be identified with Martin Luther than with Jesus Christ!
Martin Luther was a remarkable, courageous, pillar of the faith. A history changer. The Father of Protestantism. Used by God.
He was also an anti-Semite.
In his treatise entitled On The Jews & Their Lies (1543), he said he believed Jews to be "an idle and lazy people, such a useless, evil, pernicious people, such blasphemous enemies of God." This is just one snippet. There are many more. My point is not to beat up on Luther, but to just let you in on where my thoughts went when my friend said she would rather be associated with Luther than Jesus. She would rather be identified with a great man, albeit a flawed one, than with the perfect man, God incarnate, who was without flaw, Jesus Christ.
That saddens me.
And sadder still is her reason why.
It's our fault. We Christians blew it. We made "Christian" a dirty word. In the book UnChristian by David Kinnaman, he reveals that 16-29 year olds perceive Christianity to be anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too political, sheltered, and proselytizing according to Barna Group Research ( Get Book Here ) I can see why. I've been judgmental, narrow-minded and arrogant at times. (See my blog entry entitled member of the AKC Club for one example.)
Why is she OK with being called a Lutheran? Because the ones she knows are loving. Open minded. They are service-oriented. Humble. She knows them and would be willing to be called one of them. Just don't call her a "Christian."
Yesterday, a Christian I love and respect called to tell me that she and her husband are leaving a church because they found out the Sunday School teacher was a Calvinist. (Not the pastor mind you, the Sunday School teacher!) This would be the second church they have left because of "Calivinism." She and her husband believe both pre-determinism (Calvinism) and free will are in the Bible, but lean toward Arminianism (Free will). She said, "You know, most Calvinists say that if you don't believe the way they do that you're not a Christian!" I said, "Most CHRISTIANS say if you don't believe the way they do you are not a Christian!" She didn't respond. During the silence I thought...Oh, all the reasons we divide. And the world is watching.
And while they watch us argue, point, divide and accuse, they are running to identify with someone, something, anything that helps them find their purpose, meaning and hope for living --- money, a career, artistic expression, spiritual healers, individualism, church, love, meditation...none of which are bad, just not enough. None of them can be. They are just reflections of a greater light. Simple shards of the complex, perfect original --the wholly wonderful, beautiful Truth.
Jesus Christ is what they're searching for.
But when they find Him, they don't want Him because of me, because of "Christians."
That kills me.
And it's killing them, too.
They die lost and hungry while we argue about whether we choose God or God chooses us.
They die in despair while we debate whether or not you have to be baptized to be saved.
They languish away in loneliness without a friend in the world, while we link arms in friendship to take a stand against Prop. 8, abortion, homosexuality, immigration.
They chase a dollar while we chase our tails.
We tell Democrats, Liberals, gays, feminists, heck even divorced women, they can't possibly be Christians.
We yell "Sinners!" and hold "God hates fags!" signs at funerals while families weep.
We build million dollar mega-churches with giant auditoriums and Bose sound systems while just down the street, 6 people sleep on the floor in one small room, curled up in bed-bug infested sheets.
We get caught sleeping with someone who is not our wife, molesting kids, watching porn, stealing money to support our lavish lifestyles. When we get caught, we lie. Then the truth comes out and the jig is up so we shed big fat tears on national TV and ask Jesus to forgive us. But the damage is done. Jesus may forgive, but the world won't. Those who would want to know Jesus, say "not if it means I have to be ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE." Can you give me something else to call myself? Can we invent a new word or something?
The truth is, there are so many wonderful Christians out there. I know many of them. They don't just throw money at the poor, they sacrafice their time, talent and treasure. They lift the poor from the floor and place them in beds. They get rid of the bed-bugs, build houses, and fill gas tanks and refrigerators for those in need. They repair homes after floods and hurricanes. They take sports equipment, food, job skills training to the far corners of the earth. They dig wells and pass out mosquito nets. They sit with their arm around tearful widows.They buy baby formula and Christmas gifts for immigrants. They adopt kids with special needs born to drug-addicted mothers. They are loving and welcoming and reach out to all with the love of Christ. Their life reflects his love. They are peace-seeking, peace-making and peace-giving. Some call themselves Lutherans. Some Baptists. Some Catholics - ALL call themselves Christians.
As do I.
So c'mon Christians, let's take back the name from the ones who stole it away for their own purposes and tarnished it. Let's put an end to the bickering over theology. Let's stop pulling Jesus left and right in the political world for our own selfish purposes. Let's stop judging. Lying. Cheating. Dividing. Let's keep giving, serving, loving, hoping and praying. Let's be loud about our love for Christ and for the world. Let's drown out the haters. Let's shine like lights in the darkness - like a city on a hill! Let's answer the prayer of Jesus in John 17 and UNIFY. Not for our causes, but for the cause of Christ who came to seek and to save.
Let's put CHRIST back in CHRISTian!
-Hope A. Horner
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